October 29, 2007


I considered making this another post about the New England Patriots and their unsportsmanlike play of late, and how they would meet the Colts this weekend and face justice. But just as Indianapolis Colts' coach Tony Dungy said after winning last year's Super Bowl, "God doesn't care about football games."

People have asked, in fact I too have asked, how do you know when God's talking to you? I think God's been talking to me, through a series of interesting coincidences over the past few weeks. God's been putting something else, far more important than football in my head the past few days and weeks. The idea of "justice". It all started a few weeks ago when I read (and blogged) about the meaning of justice in Amos 5:21-24, how we should be thinking about where our money goes when we tithe. The idea that God meant for tithing to be used to help the poor, the needy and hungry -- not for the church which is where most of our tithing is spent.

Last Sunday, we had a special guest speaker at church, Ray Barnett. He started reading the scripture he'd be covering and I wasn't even paying attention until I realized he was talking about the same scripture I had just blogged about. Amos 5:21-24. It felt kind of like God smacking me and saying PAY ATTENTION, THIS IS IMPORTANT. So I woke up, and I was riveted by this sermon, about how God didn't care too much about how grand our sanctuary was, awesome worship team, our songs and prayers -- everything inside the church -- unless our church was focused on what was outside of the church. He was talking about Justice.

Throughout the week actually (we had a Missions "Week" at our church), I had been repeatedly bothered by the message they seemed to be saying. They kept saying that if we wanted to help further God's kingdom, we should go overseas. Why do we need to go overseas to help God's people? There are plenty right here at home. It reminded me of this guy I met at Perspectives, who told me his church "trains" their youth for missions, by using Native Missions as a stepping stone to what he called the "real stuff", which was the overseas stuff. I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

That's not to say that those going overseas is not doing the right thing, but I think the senders need to carefully consider what the needs are of this country too, and not just focus on people across the ocean. After all, the rest of the world is sending more missionaries out than North America is. Way more. And many of them are being sent HERE.

I think one of things I absolutely love about my fiancee is that she has a heart for people who need God, regardless of where they are in this world. I'm so thankful that Ina and I see eye-to-eye on this and both have this burning desire to help people.

Saturday night, Ina 'dragged' me out to a worship night at Unionville Alliance Church. We had planned to go all along but I was really tired and still a bit too emotional because of the upcoming funeral for Auntie Jean. She thought it'd do us both some good to enjoy some worship time. I remember thinking I should just do this for her because I am such a great future husband, but deep down thinking I so did not want to be there. I think deep down she knew this was happening but maybe God was nudging her to go. She even suggested that we could leave immediately after the singing.. maybe this was to entice me to go. But anyway we ended up going and staying for the whole thing. And it was again God telling me about justice.

Surprisingly, the worship time wasn't the highlight of the night. There was a segment at the end where they had open-mic time, and allowed people to come up and share about things they were thankful for.

One by one people went up. But I thought what was most striking to me was that the subject of justice came up again and again. There was this one guy who serves in a ministry at Jane & Finch, he said he was thankful to be alive, to have food to eat and water. A perfect Sunday school answer but he said it with conviction, indicating that he meant every word of it. This guy reminded me of Shane Claiborne, or perhaps the image I have of Shane. And it wasn't just him.. various people went up and spoke about justice, about the poor and needy and about how we needed to love them.

There was God, again, talking to me, again saying PAY ATTENTION TO THIS.

October 26, 2007


For Christians, when a person dies there is two or three things that come to mind. One, is that God has decided to bring that person home. Another, is a wonderment of why God decided to take that person away from you. Third, is the human side, the pain and the grief of losing someone.

Last night, I came home exhausted at 9pm and laid down on the couch to relax and watch the World Series. My mom has been in town for the last 3 weeks and will be here for another week. She's been such a blessing for Darryl and I, we've had home cooking for the past 3 weeks. You wouldn't believe how much money I've saved on food. Not to mention the food is just better. I wonder if 30 years from now my son or daughter will come visit Ina and I and be grateful for our cooking. I find that really hard to believe. Neither of us can cooking particularly well. And yet "great home cooked meal" seems to be a constant for all generations. I guess that means my cooking skills are going to improve drastically in the next 20 years... Anyway, about my mom, she was planning to take a trip to Syracuse for the weekend, to visit some old college friends that she hadn't seen in a few years.

Boston had just taken the lead on a two-out double by Mike Lowell and I was pumping my fist in celebration. The Leafs had just beaten my Penguins and I needed something to lift my spirits. Mom couldn't understand what I was celebrating about, and went back to her room to do whatever moms do. After a little while I heard her say "Oooh!". I called out to her "What happened?", and then I heard two words. "Jean died.". There was a crack in her voice.

Brian: "Oh." Brain: "OH!".

It took about 3 seconds to register and that's when I jumped to my feet and raced over to comfort my mom, who was sobbing by the time I got there.

I remember as far back as age 6 or 7, when our family used to go over to Uncle Albert and Auntie Jean's home for fellowship. My parents were in a cell group with a few other parents that I probably wouldn't be able to name, but all of whom are likely going to be at my wedding next spring. At that time their youngest daughter Ruth probably wasn't even born yet. Rachel was around my age and her older sister Lynn was around a year or two older.

My parents went to visit her when they were here back in March. I guess they had given Uncle Albert my phone number, because after the car accident in May, he called me up to see if I was okay. He knew all about it I guess through my parents, and also even asked about how Ina was doing. It really took me by surprise because the last time I had talked to Uncle Albert was probably about 7-8 years ago. Probably one of my fondest memories of Auntie Jean was just how she always remembered things about me. All of my parents' other friends would ask me the same old things like how's school, how's your brother, things like that. But Auntie Jean always picked out specific things to ask me and so you could tell she wasn't just talking to me because I was my parents kid, she actually cared about me and how I was doing. As we got older we saw that family less and less, but whenever we did visit she'd remember me, and talk about the old days, she was a very nice lady, very kind and very loving.

Auntie Jean was diagnosed with cancer about a year ago. But I guess because I hadn't seen them in so long, it didn't affect me the way it might have, had it been someone who was 'currently' close to me. I prayed for her off and on, but most of the time I just forgot. Sometimes you just forget, when there's so much in the world to pray for.

I don't know about you guys but when I see either of my parents cry, that is a real tear jerker right there. Nothing can really prepare you to see your parents cry. I guess we are just wired that way -- we're so close to our parents that, when they feel something you feel it too, even if you shouldn't. Seeing my mom devastated by the news made it a whole lot worse for me than it really was.

You just know that none of that is helping her emotionally, because you've also lost a loved one before and none of those statements helped you feel any better either.

After hugging my mom for about 5-10 minutes, she finally stopped crying. I never know what to say to people when they're crying and dealing with grief. Crying for physical pain is a little easier to comfort, or because you hurt their feelings, that's all about just saying sorry and hugging them. But for grief, a loss of a life, that's hard. There's always those token phrases that you know just doesn't help at all, like "She is in a better place.", or "She died peacefully.", or "Don't worry we will all see her again some day.."

Mom muttered something about how she had wanted to go see her but Jean had asked that no one come visit her because she wanted them to remember her as she was, and not as she is. Then she sobbed some more and then told me how they were expecting their first grandchild in 2 weeks. Damn.

When I got back to the couch and started to think about how close Jean and Albert were to her and what it might be like for me, how could I understand or wrap my head around how she was feeling. I really wanted to empathize with those affected by this huge loss. I thought about some of our (Ina and I) closer friends, like Stan and Yee Lee, Nancy and Duncan, and how it might be like if one of them died. We've known these people for on average 5-6 years, and have grown really close to them over the past year, but my parents had been friends with Jean and Albert for 25 years. Imagining the magnitude of friendship from that standpoint fast forwarded me to the reality my mom was dealing with.

It also made me think about Jean's 3 daughters and husband, and 2 son-in-laws, and how they were feeling at this particular moment. Jean was expecting her first grandchild, due in 2 weeks. She died peacefully, with her husband and youngest daughter by her side.

These emotions stirred inside me as I prayed the night away. Grief.

October 25, 2007

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A few weeks ago I discovered that cheering against the Toronto Maple Leafs brought great satisfaction. I'll tell you what: At first, it felt so unnatural. I had been an avid Leaf fan since the age of 7, so the idea of cheering against the team I loved so much was truly difficult. But boy has it been gratifying.

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This does not mean I hate the team -- on the contrary, this team I love so much will only start to improve if they have a truly horrible season, whereupon a stupid, idiotic and moronic assclowns like General Manager John Ferguson gets fired. This is the only, only way. As a 22 year fan, I have been through some very dark times indeed and some good times, but one thing I have discovered is that signing players who are 3 and 4 years past their prime is not the way to win hockey games.

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October 22, 2007

Money not well spent; Crocs aren't all ugly

We went to Buffalo on Saturday to take advantage of the strong Canadian dollar and cheap US prices. I ended up spending a whopping $67.

The first place we went to was Target, where I made the bulk of my purchases. I bought a Nelly Furtado CD "Loose", which I can tell you, has 2 good songs on it and not much else. I got a great "deal" if you think about the price I paid compared to how much it would have costed buying in Toronto, but overall not a very good buy at all.

The second thing I bought, was kind of a double whammy. They had two David Crowder Band "Remedy" CDs left, so I grabbed them both and gave one to my friend who was with us. So we both bought it. Again, overall according to my calculations we saved $6 each on the disc. I opened his up so we could listen to it for the remainder of the trip. Boy did it suck.

What in the world has happened to David Crowder Band, after promising albums like "Can You Hear Us", and "Illuminate", this band has completely lost it. "A Collision" was a total disaster, and for a second I somehow thought maybe they would get back on track with this one. Never again will I waste money on DCB. Avoid this CD like the plague, if you haven't already made the same mistake as I did.

The other purchases I made were wedding cards. Both were bargains because I paid the US price.

We then headed over to the fashion outlet where I bought some "Crocs" slippers. Amazingly this was the best purchase I made. Crocs are super comfortable, even if they are ridiculous looking. I got the kind that look like slippers -- open-toed, slippers. These slippers are not ugly, they're just slippers. No silly looking plastic clunkers, just regular slippers with fantastical soles. They are easily the most comfortable pair of shoes/slippers I've ever worn.

October 15, 2007

Why the Pats are so good, or why the NFL salary cap sucks

Personally I've never been a fan of the New England Patriots. Cheering for them is like cheering for Tiger Woods or Roger Federer -- but none can deny that this is a franchise that has figured it all out. They have figured out the intricacies of the NFL Salary Cap, and built a team that has stood the test of time. Few franchises in professional sports have enjoyed the success that the Pats have attained, and their appears to be no end in sight. Watching last night's game was a great indication to me why the NFL salary system is flawed. The Pats completely dominated the game, in every facet of the game.

In most cases in any sport, you will have a team that dominates offense or defense, but rarely both. Last year's NFL champions were the Colts, a team that dominated offensively. They beat the Chicago Bears, who had the NFL's best defense that year. Even if you look at years past, what helped the Pats win championships in previous years was their stout defense. But this year, the Pats are dominating on both sides of the ball. Their defense is excellent, but now their offense is also excellent.

The analysts talked about how Tom Brady is having such a huge year, now having been surrounded by a cast of very talented receivers. Starting with Randy Moss who is one of the top 2-3 receivers in the league, Donte Stallworth who was the Eagles' #1 WR over the past 2-3 years, and Wes Welker, the all purpose wonder-boy from Miami last season. Adding to that they also have Laurence Maroney, a budding young superstar who's only flaw is probably his injury woes, and a top tight-end in Benjamin Watson.

The scary thing about the success of the Patriots over the past 5-6 years, is like I mentioned, the fact that this team was already loaded with superstars on the other side of the ball -- on defense. Guys like Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, Asante Samuel, Rosevelt Colvin, Ellis Hobbs, Mike Vrabel. Heck, they even have Junior Seau! It's a wonder how a team loaded with players like these could afford to load up on superstars on the offensive side too!

If there is one thing that the Pats' success over the years has shown, is the flaws in the NFL's salary cap and collective bargaining agreement. In no other league with a cap can you load up on the amount of talent that the Pats have on their roster.

The fact that you can go and front-load a players' salary with a gigantic signing bonus that can be pro-rated over the contract length so that it doesn't hurt the cap rating, and then structure the deal so that it is back-heavy. With non-guaranteed contracts teams can 'conveniently' say goodbye to awful contracts. This is something the New York Knicks (who are $75M over the NBA cap) can only dream of. The ability to restructure contracts, or the fact that contracts are not guaranteed would help Isiah Thomas not look like the buffoon that he is.

The NBA has minimum salary wages, based upon a players' experience in the league, his average pay and the league's average pay. You wouldn't be able to go out and get a Randy Moss and give him a substantial pay cut, because of the rules behind salaries in the NBA. And why wouldn't you take a cut if you could get yourself on a team full of all-stars and not worry about some kind of minimum salary sliding scale. If the NBA were built like the NFL, the Boston Celtics would have no problems adding a solid, if not very capable bench behind Garnett, Allen and Pierce. They'd even be able to restructure each of these superstar contracts and go pick up a Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash or Lebron James for added measure.

You also wouldn't be able to give up essentially nothing to trade in a guy like Moss, because there are trading limitations, based on percentages of salary cost on the players changing teams.

NFL teams also have the ability to create an entirely incentive-based contract, which allows the amount of money counted against the cap to be fairly minimal, depending of course on the types of incentives.

Simply put, there is no way that a team like the current 2007 New England Patriots -- a team that could likely represent the AFC in this years' Pro-Bowl -- could ever be assembled under the NBA Salary structure.

I used to think that the NFL was the great pro-sport league in the world. I still believe that. Yes, the cap system is seriously flawed, but if all teams could figure things out the way the Pats have, we wouldn't have to sit through these blowouts between teams that have the same record but are clearly in completely different leagues.

The NFL is a well-oiled machine that makes a ton of money. There is no league that has sustained its popularity the way the NFL has over the years. Everything about it, from the 16-week grind, to the 80,000+ seating domes, to the fact that at any given play you might break your neck. Football is just awesome, plain and simple.

Some might blame the system but I blame the GMs. Look at a team like the New York Jets. Why in the world do they even use Chad Pennington? After years of inconsistency. The Jets have stuck with Pennington for 5-6 years and he is hurt all the time and sucks. Why do you stick with a guy like that. Why did it take so many years until you drafted a new QB? What if Clemens sucks, will you wait another 5 years of mediocrity before drafting another? And there are teams like this all over the league, making horrible personnel decisions over and over again.

October 10, 2007


I'm usually pretty good at calculating change. I like it when I have just the right amount such that when I pay, they give me a perfectly even amount with no pennies. Lately though, I've been noticing that I've been getting the wrong change. I have calculated it in my head, but when I look down I see a different amount that I was expecting. It's less. I hate being cheated.

Ever since the value of the Canadian dollar surpassed the US dollar, I have noticed that more and more of the change in my pocket is American currency. I feel like I'm being ripped off. What the heck --- that isn't the Queen! Why is there a White House on my nickel? What's this? An eagle?! Yo, that's not 25 cents. That's like... 24.6 cents.

I want Canadian change please. None of these American 'pesos', thankyouverymuch.

October 08, 2007

Is there a difference?

What's the difference between shows like Entertainment Tonight versus shows like Sportscentre?

October 05, 2007


I've been reading this essay and found it really interesting. Basically what the guy is saying is that the early church gave nearly all of the offering and tithings it received to the poor. Not just to be nice, but as a principle.

I'm not about to say what's the right or wrong way to do things, I'm fully aware of the cost of running a church in terms of the building, rent, taxes, electricity.. all that stuff that comes even before paying the staff.

But I do find it interesting that the early church made it priority to give back to the community first, before worrying about their staff, whereas today's church makes it a priority to look after all its costs first, then whatever is left, may or may not go to the community. Today's tithings and offering benefit the church whereas before they benefited the non-church.

You can take one page out of the tribes of Israel's book. The Levites were assigned to take all the offerings and tithes and give them to those who needed it, ie the poor. The bible says that the clergy were to be entitled to a tithing of the the tithing, which is basically 1%. So we are looking at 9% for the poor and 1% to the church of the total 10% tithe.

If we were to pick a side without knowing the big picture and past history and how these early churches arrived to the decision to give back to the poor.. I mean if i were to just throw caution to the wind, I would tend to agree with the early church. It's really hard to argue against some of these historical leaders and clergy such as Tertullian, Justin Martyr, Augustine, Irenaeus, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, Jerome, John Chrysostom, Aristides. Not that I know really who any of these people are, but I have heard of them and I do know that they did great things.

I'd arrive to the conclusion that indeed all that money *should* go to the poor. As Shane Claiborne once wrote "I'm convinced that God didn't mess up and make too many people and not enough stuff."

What I'm really talking about here is justice. We need to bring justice. As I mentioned I am fully aware of what it costs to run a church. But if there is no justice, then what's the point of church?

Here's what God has to say about church with no justice, from Amos 5:21-24:

"I hate, I despise your religious feasts;
I cannot stand your assemblies.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!

I can't pretend that I have come up with a grand solution as to how our church could survive if all tithings and offerings were given to the poor. I can't and I won't. Back in the days, they used candles and maybe their sanctuary was outdoors, maybe they lived in countries where there weren't 6 months of winter.

So to sum up:

God is telling me that tithing should go to the poor, and God is also telling me I have to tithe to the church, and the church is spending the tithing on itself.

As Christians we must tithe, and if tithing was meant for the poor and isn't going there, then I must give 9 percent to the poor. If I give my money to the middle man, he or she may put it all into the electricity bill instead of giving it to the poor.

Therefore I need to skip the middle man and give it directly to the poor.

October 01, 2007

Dear Google,

Are you ever more forgiving of one thing over another? For example, maybe you have one sibling who has an annoying habit that you complain about every time he/she does it, but then someone else in your family has the exact same annoying habit but you look the other way? Another one I can think of is how I am ever-forgiving of Nintendo for not coming out with any good games for the Wii, and continuously tell people that the Wii is awesome even though I haven't played the thing for about 7 months.

What I've been finding is that we're a little like that with Google Mail. When Gmail came out it was the coolest thing ever. It was fast. It had conversations. It had chat. It had POP access. It had 2 gb (and counting) of disk space. It had auto-complete for emails. It had a chat log. The search tool was fantastic. It had great spam protection. It used Ajax so it was quick and functional, no annoying page to page screen loadings. I told everyone I knew about Google Mail and encouraged them to join.

3 years have passed and all the great features are still there. The unfortunate thing is, everyone has caught up to them and surpassed them. That's what happens when you sit around and twiddle your thumbs. Yahoo Mail has every single feature except for the conversations feature. It has chat, it has POP, auto-complete, Ajax. The search is there, and spam protection. It's all there. And it's fast, which is something that can no longer be said about Gmail, which seemingly has slowed down to a crawl. I dunno about you guys but I'm tired of clicking on something in Gmail and seeing that "Loading.." thing popup, and you can't even cancel it, you have no choice but to sit there and wait for it to load. On any other application, if you want to cancel, you press Esc or STOP. With Google mail, you wait. And you wait. And you wait.

Why is it taking so long? Is it wrong to assume that opening an email should be faster than the Google search tool which datamines the entire internet and comes up with a result in less than a second?

Did I mention Yahoo Mail has *unlimited* space? And the spam protection has been upped to a notch where I no longer receive as much spam as I do on Gmail. Did I mention Yahoo Mail has a built-in RSS reader? 1-button to erase all my spam?

3 years is an awfully long time for an application to sit in Beta testing. If any other company put out something that sat in Beta for 3 years, they would have gone out of business by now.

I'm ready for an upgrade, Google. I think we deserve one. Years of us telling people how great GMail is, but now I look back at Yahoo! Mail and see a far superior web-based email application. We need something to back us up on our claims that Gmail truly is the next best thing. I don't want to be called a liar.

Help me be honest.

Yours truly,